Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Geology

First Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Peake


The goal of this research is to demonstrate that developing an inexpensive compact blimp remote sensing system will allow for analysis and change detection of environmental characteristics over a small area. This system has scale and temporal advantages over existing aircraft and space platforms. The blimp remote sensing platform is capable of temporal resolutions of hours or days, while generating low cost, high spatial resolution images. This contrasts with satellite and fixed wing aircraft systems that are costly to purchase and operate, have low temporal resolutions, and may not provide adequate spatial resolution to investigate small scale phenomena. As designed, the system consists of a 15ft long tethered blimp with an analog camera package attached to the keel of the blimp. The blimp holds 300 cu ft of helium and has a lift capacity of 9 lbs at sea level. A blimp design was chosen over a round balloon design because of the blimp’s increased stability in windy conditions. Because of the constraints of infra-red film the spectral response is limited to the green, red, and near infra-red parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum. As a proof of concept, images were gathered during three flights over a restored prairie site. The blimp system was able to gather low cost, high resolution images, while loitering over the site. Operational costs were much lower than fixed wing aircraft or satellite systems and mission tasking times were on the order of hours rather than days, weeks or months. The most significant feature of the blimp system was its ability to gather imaging data in heavy overcast conditions that would have precluded fixed wing aircraft missions and obscured satellite imaging.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Geography and Geology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2006, JoAnn Sullivan.

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